Wednesday, December 26, 2012

'Twas the Day After Christmas and All Through the House . . .

After all the preparations, expectations, wrapping and the like --- Christmas is over. We had a very nice one this year with a day full of laid back family time. I've got a bit to catch up on, so I'll start with Sunday.

December 23: We woke up to a reading on the outside thermometer of 16'F and a reading on the inside thermometer of 62'F --- near the stove! We spent a freezing morning stoking the fire and trying to get the place warmed up. A plus to this weather is that some snow came with it. We all bundled up and went to church, being sure to load the wood stove up before we left. Came home and finished the prep on the Cuban dinner, though we had done a good job of getting everything possible ready in advance. The Keultjeses arrived around 4:30pm, and we ate a bit later. As always, it was a wonderful evening with lots of gab and general fun. Claire brought her fiance, Luke, so we had a nice time talking about wedding stuff and things like that!

We always exchange little presents, and Mom and Elizabeth had made all-natural doggie treats on Saturday. These were for Hannah's dog, Toby. We got several varieties of really cute little treat treat bags at Hobby Lobby, so this gave us a chance to use them. Mom and I had also made some granola, so we packaged that up in little baggies with some tea for everybody. (See pictures above.) We didn't even go to bed until midnight!

December 24: The day before Christmas, and we were all a bit slow in waking up. There was still some snow on the ground, but we also had some freezing rain --- so things were bit icy. We all took a leisurely time with breakfast, then Mom and Dad ran into town to pick up a few last-minute groceries. Elizabeth and I stayed home and worked on finishing one last present for a friend. There was an evening service at church, so we went to that and it was nice. We sang all kinds of Christmas hymns and read the Christmas story. By the time we got home it was time to go to bed. Elizabeth and I talked to each other for a little while, since we were pretty excited about exchanging gifts the next day.

December 25: Christmas morning dawned gray and foggy, but there was still some snow on the ground. We all got up not too early (about 7:30am) and came down to feed a Christmas breakfast to the kitties (lovely canned wet food!). Next, we made a big breakfast for ourselves. Elizabeth and I went upstairs and got all of the wrapped presents out and under the tree. Due to Oliver's enthusiasm (and that of a few others) for fancy Christmas ribbons and tags, we don't put our presents out in advance! Everyone had a large gift bag this year, and we put the presents for each person in those. We started unwrapping around 10:30am, took a lunch break and didn't finish until almost 4:00pm! There was all kinds of fun stuff this year --- including John Wayne Monopoly!

Mom and Elizabeth found a paperweight that's shaped like a little leather book, and it is called "Not Gone with the Wind". This was released at the time of the book as presents to employees within Brown & Bigelow Publishing. I've looked for one for quite some time, so that was pretty exciting. Also got the DVD of Bing and Barry Fitzgerald's film Welcome, Stranger. I love that one. One of the really cool things was a British penny from 1797 (bottom of photo at left). This was the first year that England issued a copper penny, but what was cool to me is that it is the year that Edward James Eliot died. Not bad to own a coin that he could have had at some point. Hey, I mean, who can prove that wrong?!

These pictures show some of the fun and the unwrapped presents. Of course, Oliver joined in the fun, too. We had coffee while we were unwrapping. Elizabeth got all three seasons (that have been released) of Green Acres! That's her new favorite TV show. Elizabeth gave me a really cute set of china figurines. They are four little boys dressed as Pierrot-type clowns. We also got Wagon Train seasons three and four, the complete set of Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes films . . .

All in all, it was a nice Christmas. We ate dinner and watched Miracle on 34th Street --- which was a gift from Jennie. That was sweet and a nice one for yesterday evening. We were a little sad all day, though, because it looks like Olivia (our Mama Cat) may have the same tooth disease that three of our other kitties have died of. It may not be, but signs are pretty sure. We'll be taking her to the vet this week --- as soon as the roads are good enough.

December 26: Today is cold and it has snowed all morning! In fact, it's still snowing. That's pretty nice, because it looks like a beautiful postcard out there. The roads are covered, though, so we couldn't make a trip to the vet or to the stores to check out some of those after-Christmas sales. Maybe tomorrow. Elizabeth and I are planning on spending the afternoon writing thank you cards, felting and watching one of the DVDs that we got yesterday. More later.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas to All of You!

As a Christmas post here, I've decided to use a piece of Charles Spurgeon's 1854 Christmas Eve sermon. Apparently, lots of people are familiar with this fabulous message, but I'd never heard it before. Our pastor played this video at church yesterday, and I thought it was fabulous. This is the reason that we celebrate Christmas. A transcript of the sermon passage used in the video is included below.

It is wisdom’s mystery, “God with us.”
Sages look at it and wonder. Angels desire to see it.
The plumb-line of reason cannot reach half-way into its depths.
The eagle wings of science cannot fly so high and
the piercing eye of the vulture of research cannot see it!
“God with us.” It is Hell’s terror! Satan trembles at the sound of it.
His legions fly apace, the black-winged dragon of the Pit quails before it!
Let Satan come to you suddenly and do you but whisper that word,
“God with us”—back he falls—confounded and confused!
Satan trembles when he hears that  name, “God with us.”
It is the laborer’s strength—how could he preach the Gospel,
how could he bend his knees in prayer,
how could the missionary go into foreign lands,
how could the martyr stand at the stake,
how could the confessor acknowledge his Master,
how could men labor if that one word were taken away?
“God with us,” is the sufferer’s comfort, is the balm of his woe,
is the alleviation of his misery, is the sleep which God gives to His beloved,
is their rest after exertion and toil.
Ah, and to finish, “God with us” is eternity’s sonnet,
is Heaven’s hallelujah, is the shout of the glorified,
is the song of the redeemed, is the chorus of angels,
is the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky!
God with us.”

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Concerning Little Beatrice . . .

Today marks the anniversary of the day that we brought my little cat Beatrice home from the shelter. She was seven and a half months old when we got her, and she had lived at the shelter for six months. All of her siblings and her Mama had been adopted, but no one wanted "Little Bee" --- because she was black.

Elizabeth's cat, Deanna, had died that morning, so we were out to get another baby. Well, Beatrice came right over to me and started "frenzy-ing" all over. I picked her up and she just climbed into the hood of my coat and fell asleep. How can you resist that?! We had to bring her home with us.

She took a couple of days to adjust to her new house. She wasn't used to having any space to play in, so she spent three days just sitting in and next to her little cat bed. That didn't last long. She figured that she was the only girl cat (at that time), so she might as well take advantage of the situation. She laid down the law and has been Queen of the House ever since. She's the smallest cat in the place --- weighing in at 7-1/2 pounds.

She still frenzies all over the place, and her favorite play is running. She has a sensitive stomach and kitty "asthma" (there's a fancy name for it), but she's actually pretty healthy. She loves music --- particularly Country Western. Her all-time favorite is Brenda Lee, and her favorite song is Cryin' Time. Funny kitty. She liked Johnny Cash when we played a record of his, but I'm afraid that I had to draw the line there. Another type of music that appeals to her is traditional Jewish chanting and songs. I wonder what makes a little kitty like her love music?

The picture above shows Beatrice when she was a kitten in the shelter. The picture on the right was taken this Summer. Isn't she precious?! It's hard to get a picture of her, because she is so black that the camera can't focus on her --- never mind the fact that she won't sit still, because she thinks you are just dying to pet her!

Christmas is pretty much here, and we're almost ready! Lots of pictures and blogging to come. More later.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Dinner Arrives via UPS

How many people get their Christmas dinner delivered via UPS? Well, our Grampa sends it to us that way every year. Today was the big day, and the box arrived at the front door this morning. Perfect timing, too, as the Keultjeses are coming over on Sunday!

Every year, Grampa mails a box full of all the Cuban "fixin's" for a really grand dinner. Plantains, yuca, garlic, guava paste . . . We've got the black beans and rice here, so everything is ready to be cooked. Just take a look at that delicious box of food!

It just isn't feeling like Christmas around here, and I can't believe how close it is. We felt really "Christmas-y" for several weeks there while we wrapped, packed and shipped presents to out-of-town family and friends. While we got all of our Christmas cards ready and while we packed up the Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. Now that all that fun is finished, though, it's just not feeling very festive. You don't get Christmas cards in the mail like you used to. People are just "too busy". People don't even exchange gifts or have parties or dinners together, anymore. And we don't have any snow. It's sitting in the 40s around here with rain and mud.

We've got some fun lined up for a few days, though, what with our Christmas dinner on Sunday, special church service on Monday and a nice laid-back Christmas on Tuesday. We're planning on staying home all day. Have a nice slow breakfast and have fun exchanging presents with each other. Elizabeth and I have some wrapping to do. Oh boy!

The two of us spent all afternoon (and evening) on Saturday working on a present for a friend. We were sitting on the floor from about two o'clock in the afternoon until eleven o'clock at night! Mom and Dad had already gone to bed, and we were sure stiff for a while after that. It was pretty fun, though.

We're really working on ideas for the Etsy store. Haven't listed anything else in it yet, but we've got some more things ready and even more in the makings. Come on January! We're hoping to spend the winter making and listing . . . and, Lord willing, selling! :) More later.

Monday, December 10, 2012

We've opened an Etsy Store: The Fogleberry Shoppe

Mom and I have talked about it and talked about it some more. We finally decided to open an Etsy store yesterday afternoon. The main thing that we wanted to list there were the felted dolls (called "Fogleberries"), so the name of the store is The Fogleberry Shoppe. We listed the four Fogleberries last night, and I've got plans for making a few more to put in there.

Elizabeth and I are also planning on making some small wired dolls (of the four inch or less variety) with felt clothes and needle felted heads. We've made quite a few dolls like this, including a WWII sailor, a little Jeanette MacDonald, a William Wilberforce and a set of the "nine" from The Fellowship of the Ring --- see this entry for photo. While those dolls won't be for sale, it's more of this type that we've got in mind. That should give us some more things to offer, more easily made (not three to four months a piece) and at a low price.

Mom and I had to make a banner for the store, so we spent an hour or so on that. Here is the finished result:

This has given Elizabeth and me the idea to make a "Fogleberries" page for our website. So, that's on the agenda. I'm coming right along with the next doll --- the little guitar player. My family cast a unanimous vote that he should not be a gnome. They agreed that he should look like a modern little man, so that's what he's going to be. He's actually going to look pretty sleek when finished. I modified his shoes last night (removing those little "gnome" buckles, etc.), and we've found quite a cool "seat" for him. Pictures to come as soon as he's finished --- hopefully, before Christmas. Be sure to check out the Etsy store!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Saying Goodbye to the Little Man-Cub

One of the saddest things happened on Tuesday. We had to put sweet, baby Manly to sleep. He was six and a half years old, and he was one of the first batch of kittens born in our dining room. I hardly even know how to write this. It makes me so sad.

Manly  (April 15, 2006 - December 4, 2012)
Click Here to View Manly's Photo Album

Manly was a big kitty. Thirty pounds (and sometimes a wee bit more!) and all solid orange stripes. He was the last of the seven kittens born in his litter, and he was never a small "rat-like" babe. He was born a real kitten --- and way bigger than any of the others. Despite his size, he was a little baby at heart. He never learned to bathe himself, didn't really know how to play and got "lost" if he walked into a wall or corner. He could sure love, though. Never a bad thought entered his little mind, and nothing made him happier than lovin's, pettin's and brushing.

The only toy that he liked was a big old rabbit-fur muff. He had successfully ripped all of the stuffing out of it, and he would carry it around the house as a present for anyone he might think of. There was usually a big piece of fur lying in front of the bedroom doors in the morning.

Elizabeth and I had just been sitting together this weekend, admiring Manly as he slept in his big basket in the living room. We had said that of all our ten kitties (Oliver excluded, that is), Manly would be one of the two that we wouldn't want to lose. Just two days later he was gone. What a picture of how fleeting life is.

He was sure a precious little baby. He had a loud meow and wasn't afraid to use it if you weren't petting him enough. He loved clean clothes. If I was sorting them on the bed, he'd have to sit right on a stack of them --- then, I'd shoo him off. But his favorite thing was sitting in the clothes dryer. Didn't matter if it was full or empty, either --- he liked it any way. And it was sure a hard job to budge him out of there.

One of the first three kitty babes that we got was a little six-week old kitten named Sydney. That kitten was the sweetest little thing, but he died three months after we got him. Well, Manly came along three short months later, and he was pretty much a clone of Sydney. You can't even tell their pictures apart.

Manly was a very healthy cat, but he had shallow hip socket. He (and his siblings) could sit with his back legs completely stuck out behind him (see photo). He also had a tendency to freak out over small things. On Tuesday morning, the vacuum scared him, and he jumped off of the tree house from the very top story. It broke his back leg, and possibly the hip socket as well. With his size and hip defects, there just wasn't anything they could do for him.

So, we now have nine kitties left, but Manly leaves a big hole. There are three of his six siblings left, and they aren't taking this well. They are all pretty sad and lonely. I know that the acute sadness will pass eventually, but I think Manly is one of those kittens that you never quite get over losing. You can't replace a baby like him. He was sure a sweetheart.

Elizabeth made it through writing a lot more about Man Cub than I could, so be sure to read her blog entry HERE.